Curiosity drives Dubai residents to metro

    Curiosity rather than the need to commute drove Dubai residents to the city’s metro rail network on Thursday, the first day of its public opening.

    As the first trains went into service, most riders told Maktoob Business that they would maintain their private cars because the partial opening of the Red Line does not help improve the emirate’s lack of public transportation.

    “I am not going to give up my car because the train service is very limited. It will not take me to Sharjah or to so many other places in Dubai where I go to visit my friends,” said Sadikh Mohammed, an accountant. “Nothing would make me give up my car because I do not think there is adequate public transport in the UAE.”

    On the first train from Nakheel Harbour and Tower station, passengers were evenly divided between journalists and people just curious about using the new mode of public transport.

    Mattar al-Tayer, chairman of the board and executive director of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), which is building the metro, said on Wednesday it would be “a challenge to make people use the metro”.

    But he hopes people will use the metro because it is inexpensive and cuts out parking and toll charges. He expects one in five Dubai residents to travel on the metro.

    UAE national Abdullah Naji said the metro represents the modern image Dubai is striving to create.

    “Dubai can do big things. This is good for our city’s international image,” he said. He plans to use the metro often.

    Raj Kumar, a salesman in the emirate, said: “Right now it is not practical to depend on the Dubai Metro to meet clients around the city. Let’s see what happens when the remaining stations open.”

    The Red Line has only partially opened with 10 of 29 stations running. The remaining are scheduled to be ready by February.

    “I come from London, and there, if your work does not require you to have a car and you do not have to leave the city often, then public transport is sufficient. You cannot say the same about Dubai,” said a British expatriate.

    But a start has been made and many residents cheered the launch of train services.

    “I am afraid to drive in Dubai. People here drive like crazy. I always have problems with taxi drivers who do not know their way around and it is so difficult to explain to them. I am going to use the Metro more,” said Satsuki Tanabe, a tour consultant from Japan.

    Compared to similar systems in major international cities, Dubai Metro fares are also much cheaper, ranging from 2 dirhams ($0.55) for a single journey of less than 3 km to a maximum of 6.5 dirhams for longer journeys.

    The 52-km Red Line runs from Al-Rashidiya to Jebel Ali industrial area and free zone. The cost to build the Red and Green lines has almost doubled from $4.2 billion.

    People without a driving licence said the metro’s launch means they do not have to spend their time and money on getting one.

    “I was thinking of applying for driving lessons. But if Metro works better then, I am not going to need a driving licence,” said Shajahan from India.